Each year, the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festivals separates the men from the boys, the women from the girls, the music lovers from the hardcore fans.
The three-day festival — now in its third year as a two-weekend event running both April 11-13 and April 18-20 in Indio — can be a grueling experience. But if you can survive it, you can join the millions of Coachella veterans like us who can proudly say they survived the Coachella Crud, the sandstorms and the scorching heat for the love of all that rocks.
So here are our tips to make it through Southern California's biggest and baddest music festival. God speed.PLAN AHEAD
Going with a group? Chances are you are all not going to want to watch the same acts so plan out your schedule in advance and set up a central meeting place after each set. Cell phone reception can be spotty, to say the least, and you might not realize you're getting messages until 30 minutes after they were sent, so if you all agree to meet in one location then this will help reunite the group if ever separated. Choose a beer garden, choose an art sculpture or the sign in front of the Sahara Tent — just make sure you designate a spot that is visible and rememberable enough for your friends to find each other.
If you want to catch your favorite band at 1 p.m., be sure you start heading to the festival around 10 a.m. No joke. It's like the airport rule — come 3 hours before your flight.
Even once you're inside, you want to make sure you're early to the stage if you want to catch a decent amount of the band's set because everywhere you go there will be lines. From the bathroom to the food and beer gardens, you'll have to wait — even the celebrities have to wait in line for the VIP Porta-Potty, you know.
RUB IT IN
Sunscreen will be your best friend for the weekend-long festival.
When choosing sunscreen, anything greater than SPF 50 provides only a little more protection than SPF 30 from UVB rays, which can cause skin cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic. So be sure to opt for broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects from both UVB and UVA rays (that cause age spots and wrinkles) that can harm your skin.
Make sure your first application of sunscreen happens before you leave your hotel or at least before you get out of the parking lot, then repeat — often.
The desert sun can be a hot, hot beast so don't let it ruin your fun by burning you so bad you can barely move for the next two days of the festival.
ATTEMPT TO STAY CLEAN
Hand sanitizers, tissue (or even your own roll of toilet paper) as well as Wet Wipes can be life savers. You may be able to find a vendor handing these essential items out for free, but it's better to be prepared. You don't want to get back from Coachella with a gross infection do you?
Coachella is just about equal parts about the music and fashion scene — but that doesn't mean you should take your Fendi bag and sport your limited edition MJs. No matter what you do, you are going to get dirty so leave that expensive stuff behind and grab your disposable wear. That's the $5 sunglasses (or the free ones from that one party), those old Chucks and anything else you could afford to lose or won't mind will be forever ruined by that one Coachella fan who couldn't hold his liquor (yes, that does happens).
NATURE ALWAYS WINS
If there's one thing we know about past years is the weather isn't always cooperative. Make sure to bring clothes that can work for the triple-digit days and the chilly desert nights that can drop as soon as the sun goes down.
Also, don't forget a bandana in case the wind picks up. Remember when Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers joked about eating sand during the band's set in the middle of the sandstorm last year? Well, it was no joke. So bring a bandana and hopefully you can keep from choking on sand.
You're going to want to stay hydrated and no, that doesn't mean drink more beer, that means good ol' H20. Chugging some coconut water doesn't hurt either. The tropical beverage has fewer calories than sports drinks like Gatorade, is naturally fat- and cholesterol-free, has more potassium than four bananas and is just super hydrating.
TAKE IT EASY, BRO
As stated above, there is no need to shotgun beer like you're at a frat party because Coachella is more of a marathon than a sprint. Take it easy on the alcohol or you'll black out before OutKast even hits the stage.
LOCK IT UP
Get a locker (and if you heed our advice about being early to the fest, you'll get there in time before lockers sell out). These handy lockable boxes from your high school days of yore may just be what saves you from losing your car keys or ruining that cool merch you plan to stock up on at the fest. Go here to check them out: www.lockersonline.com.
BE SMART WITH YOUR SMARTPHONE
There are cell phone charging stations scattered about the festival ground, but there will likely be lines to use them. If you don't want to miss some acts make sure to save your phone battery by reducing the brightness on your screen and closing any unused apps. Turning your phone to Airplane Mode may also save your battery life. Or, you can also invest in a battery case for your phone, like the mophie Juice Pack Air, to extend your battery life.
WAIT IT OUT
After a long night bumping up again sweaty like-minded fans, you are ready to get on the road and back to your hotel. The only problem is there are thousands of other Coachella dan doing the same thing. If you haven't been then chances are you've heard the horror stories about people waiting hours to get out of the parking lot (Mariecar's record hit 3 hours one year). It seems like exiting the lots has improved over the years, but it doesn't mean you won't get stuck waiting a bit. So come prepared with snacks.
Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival
Where: Empire Polo Club, 81-800 Avenue 51, Indio.
When: April 11-13 and April 18-20.
Cost: Sold out.